Why Did Bush Not Pardon Israeli Spy?

By Joseph Fitsanakis* | intelNews | 01.26.2009
Jonathan Pollard campaign
IN HIS LATEST ARTICLE FOR The Santa Barbara News Press, Robert Eringer, the former FBI counterintelligence agent who now works for Prince Albert II of Monaco, reminds intelligence observers of the case of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Jay Pollard. Pollard, who has so far served 24 years of a life sentence, was found guilty in 1987 of spying on the US on behalf of Israel, while working as a US Navy intelligence analyst. According to his sentencing guidelines, he is not to be released from prison before 2015. Israel remained silent during Pollard’s arrest, trial and conviction. But in 1998, the Israeli government awarded Pollard Israeli citizenship and admitted he was working on its behalf when captured by US Navy counterintelligence agents.

Since his arrest and conviction, Pollard has been considered something of a national hero in Israel, and an enormous effort has been launched to secure his release. Israeli newspapers, whose articles routinely liken Pollard to Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2006,  disclosed earlier this month that a “massive campaign was conducted behind the scenes in Washington to persuade US president George W. Bush to commute Pollard’s sentence”. The effort, which included “tens of thousands of phone calls” that “flooded the White House”, was so enormous that several Israeli insiders considered Pollard’s release almost certain. Acting on inside information, one Israeli news outlet had “even prepared an article celebrating his release under a would-be headline ‘Jonathan Pollard is Coming Home!’”. Pollard remained imprisoned after all, and the question is, why did George W. Bush not succumb to these lobbying pressures?

One possible answer is provided by Ronald Olive, a former counterintelligence officer for the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), who is quoted in Robert Eringer’s article. Olive led the US Navy’s prosecution of Jonathan Pollard and eventually wrote a book –titled Capturing Jonathan Pollard– about the case. Speaking to the BBC earlier this month, Olive described Pollard’s spying activity as “one of the most devastating cases of espionage in US history” during which Pollard stole over “one million classified documents”. He also appeared certain that “not only did the intelligence go to Israel [...] but to other countries as well”, and dismissed the view of Pollard as an Israeli national hero: “[i]t did not matter [to] whom [he sold the classified information]. It was all about him. It just so happened that Israel took him on”, said Olive. The retired Naval counterintelligence officer also revealed to Robert Eringer that Pollard “passed more secrets to a foreign power (360-plus cubic feet of paper), in the shortest amount of time, than any spy before or after him”.

The above revelations by Ronald Olive may well explain why Pollard remains in prison, despite the immense lobbying pressure in favor of his release. Last time such a massive campaign was launched was in January of 2000, when departing US President Bill Clinton almost gave in to pardoning the Israeli spy. At that time, then CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign in protest if Pollard was pardoned, says Eringer, who further points out that Tenet’s strong feelings about the Pollard espionage case “represented the intelligence community’s view”. It is more than probable that these very same views were once again communicated in no uncertain terms to George W. Bush, earlier this month. The latter, having already blamed US intelligence agencies for his Iraq War fiasco, appears to have decided to refrain from delivering yet another blow to America’s intelligence community.

* Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis has been writing and teaching on the politics of intelligence for over ten years. His areas of academic expertise include the institutional analysis of the intelligence community; the interception of communications; and the history of intelligence with particular reference to international espionage during the Cold War. He is co-founder and Senior Editor of intelNews.org. His latest writings for intelNews.org are available here.

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13 Responses to Why Did Bush Not Pardon Israeli Spy?

  1. s. holt says:

    The real reason Jonathan Pollard was not pardoned was that he could have exposed the Bush-Baker-Weinberger complicity–treason at the highest level. It was well known that Jonathan Pollard saw inside the terror network inside the Saud embassy where Prince Bander bin Sultiand, the long time insider in Washington, close to WEinberger and the Bush-Saudi Royals-bin Laden family could have been imprisoned for his passing of United States information provided by people like Jonathan Pollard to the Saudis in happy hour every Friday…As was known the wife of the Ambassador was found to be supplying funds to terrorists, and Bander was recalled. in a head on a New YOrk Times/Washington Post story, the famous NYTimes Columnist wrote “When Bander bin Sultan says “jump’ George W.H. Bush then Vice President said: ‘How high.”
    Pollard had to be silenced …he knew too much and if released the fear of his knowledge about treason in high places, and the fact that that could have been the opening for the 9/11 attack on USA

  2. Chas Ward says:

    s.holt – one comment bollocks! Here you have a US-born citizen, who happens to be Jewish, spying for Israel and then claiming and receiving Israeli citizenship. The NCIS had it right and this guy should never be released from jail.

  3. KMansfield says:

    Holts logic doesn’t compute.
    If Pollard had seen behind the curtain, and if what he knew would remain a risk, why would Bush’s potential Sword of Damocles be left alive, let alone hand over custody of anti-Islamic Israel? GHW was friends with Bandar, and he didn’t cow-tow to Israel.

    Another theory I find more plausible was that Israel traded the secrets to Russia, the identities of US agents operating there (which cost them their lives), in return for allowing a large number of Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel.
    The cat was already out of the bag by the time he was arrested.
    Israel then blamed the leak of the agent names on another US double agent that was killed about the same time.
    This sounds more plausible to me, as Pollard had already revealed the intel, he was no longer a risk and has an incentive to keep his mouth shut now.

  4. observer says:

    I agree with the article and with the previous commentator. The article above mentions something that most forget -“not only did the intelligence go to Israel [...] but to other countries as well” – i.e. Russia.

  5. Anon Ymous says:

    But y’all know he will be released right? Straight into Israel’s waiting arms…watch for the hero’s welcome.

  6. yonason says:

    Thanks to the information Pollard gave Israel, Saddams nuke program was destroyed, thereby ultimately SAVING AMERICAN LIVES.

    Some people have no gratitude.

  7. Randy says:

    Pollard short and squat with a bald dome like a cement mixer. Is his continued incarceration in F.C.C. Butner, his eventual death behind bars, a metaphor for the destruction of Israel, for the rage of the Gentiles (Quake) against Israel (Quisp)? Is he a twisted product of antisemitism?

  8. CCTV says:

    Thank you for this post. Interesting…

  9. USS Liberty says:

    While we are on the subject of Israeli treachery against the US, let’s remember the USS Liberty: http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/ussliberty.html

  10. Pingback: US rejects calls to free Navy analyst who spied for Israel « Wgvenom’s Weblog

  11. Pingback: Ex-diplomat: US thinks Israeli spy Pollard was not acting alone « Wgvenom’s Weblog

  12. Pingback: Israel to push U.S. for Pollard’s release as Obama visit nears | Wgvenom's Weblog

  13. Pingback: Analyst who spied on US for Israel speaks out for first time |

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